Let’s Talk About Attrition Rates at UnConferences


Attrition
I’ve been helping to run UnConferences since way back in 2009 when Liz Davis and I organized the inaugural EdubloggerCon East at BLC. I’ve since helped to organize that conference for three years, a TeachMeetNJ, EdCamp Common Core and two EdCamp Leaderships.

Running an unconference is not rocket science, but it is a commitment of time and effort. I’m happy to do it. I welcome the opportunity to exchange information and ideas in an informal setting. I’m even happy to go to vendors asking for money to pay for food and door prizes.

Here’s my concern:

Is 50% attrition acceptable?

Why do we accept only half of registrants on a free event showing up as a good turnout?

For planning purposes the organizing committee must plan for:

  • enough space
  • enough food
  • give-aways
  • sponsors

Honestly, the time and efforts donated by the organizers is the same whether it’s 200 people or 400, but I hate to see the wasted food, that could have fed some local hungry families. I hate to see the vendors spend the money on the wasted food when they could have donated equipment or supplies to a local classroom in need. I hate to see the organizers stress over how many people will ACTUALLY show up and whether there is enough space and food for them.

So, why do I bring this up now after four years of hosting these events? 

I have seen the attrition rates creeping up over the years. Back in 2009, almost everyone that registered for a free event would show as the concept was such a novelty. Over the next couple of years, we would plan for 30% of folks that had “bought” tickets not showing. Then, last summer I planned for 50% attrition. But, last Monday, for Edcamp Leadership, we had only 25% of registrants show. Believe me, we all had a fantastic day, but it was disappointing.

What’s the plan? Do organizing committees continue to guesstimate? Or do we establish some unwritten rules about only registering for something that you are committing to attend. Please share your thoughts.

Looking to Hear Success Stories from Educators in NJ

On Saturday, March 17, 2012 I will be speaking at the first ever West Essex Tech Symposium. This special free event has been designed to educate K-12 teachers, administrators, media specialists, school boards and interested community members on the innovative uses of technology in education.

I am one of three keynotes that will be presented that day. Eric Scheninger and Patrick Higgins will also be presenting, so I encourage you to attend and also check out the many sessions from fantastic teachers and admins across NJ.

I would love to share your story during my keynote, “Possibly the 648th Time You’ll Hear About 21st Century Learning”. Please consider filling out the form below, contacting me directly or passing the link to this page on to someone you feel has a story to share. It’s these stories that encourage other educators in NJ and elsewhere to shift their teaching strategies to help prepare our students for what is to come.

FETC 2012 Thinking About the Un-Comfort Zone

This was my first FETC. I got lucky with the weather, I got lucky with the company I got to keep, I got lucky that my presentations (1 and 2) went well (I think). But most important of all, I got lucky with what I took away from the conference.

I spent much of the conference thinking about students as leaders. I included Chris Lehman and Sylvia Martinez in one of my presentations because of how they empower the students they work with.

I listened to stories form the changes Shannon Miller has made in Van Meter, Iowa. I sat and heard Jason Markey and some other folks from East Leyden High School in Illinois speak about empowering students as leaders. I engaged in some great conversations on Twitter:

Heidi Hayes Jacobs spoke about how we are limited by what we know. Many of us tend to do things that we are used to and comfortable with. But she also said that we have to feel uncomfortable in order to grow. I think one of the great ways to get in that un-comfort zone is to put the learning in the hands of the students.

Heidi talked about the following with regards to what makes a good Web 2.0 site:

  • encourage engagement and curiosity
  • deepens examination of content
  • engenders independence
  • reflects quality in student products/performance

But I am thinking that we can apply these same requirements to how we put our students in leadership roles.

So, think about how you can push yourself to try something new. Perhaps that new thing can be a change in the role of the students in your classroom. Please let me know what you think.


Resources from My Presentation at Edscape 2011

Today, I had the pleasure of presenting at Edscape 2011. The title of my session was Spontaneous Professional Development. You most likely have heard this term before as it is used pretty frequently these days.

Here’s the description of the session:
There are a plethora of FREE Web2.0 resources for bringing professional development to the educators in your district. Archived webinars can be viewed at home in your pajamas or with your PLC (professional learning community) as part of a district meeting. Using archived and live Blackboard Elluminate (desktop video conferencing) sessions from presentations all over the world, harness the power of your network to virtually keep learning.

Here are the opportunities I spoke about:

2011 Library Worldwide Virtual Conference
http://library2011.net

FETC 2011 Fall Virtual Conference
http://fetc.org/Events/Virtual-Conference/Home.aspx

The Future of Education
http://www.futureofeducation.com/

iEarn online courses
http://us.iearn.org/

The DEN Fall Virtual Conference 2011
http://www.discoveryeducation.com/VirtualConference2011/

Classroom 2.0
http://www.classroom20.com/

Classroom 2.0 Live
http://live.classroom20.com/

iTunes U
http://www.apple.com/education/itunes-u/

Edutopia on iTunes
http://www.edutopia.org/itunes

Learn Central
http://www.learncentral.org/

Youtube: Apps Edu Certified Trainer Channel
http://www.youtube.com/user/AppsEduCT

Ed Tech Talk
http://edtechtalk.com/

Teacher 2.0
http://teacher20.com/

There are countless others, but I only had 50 minutes. Please share links to opportunities for professional development as a comment if you would like to add to the list.

EduBloggerCon East 2011

It’s that time of year again! Liz and I are gearing up for #ebce11

What, Where and When:

EduBloggerCon East
Monday, July 25, 2011
Boston Park Plaza Hotel and Tower, Boston, MA
9am – 5pm: Come all day, or any part of it! (If you want to help organize the day, you can show up at 8am.)

If you can’t attend in person, consider one or both of these ways of joining the conversation:

UStream Channel – http://www.ustream.tv/channel/ebce11
Twitter Hashtag: #ebce11

Why:

EduBloggerCon is based on the idea of an “unconference”.  If you are not clear on what an unconference is, please check out my post on it from last year. Join  new and old educational colleagues to discuss topics not always discussed during more traditional conferences. The bonus is that this event is FREE thanks to the donation of space and bandwidth from the November Learning team.

How:

Please visit the “I’m Attending” page at http://www.edubloggercon.com/ebcEast2011Attending and add your details. In the next couple of days, Liz and I will post a schedule that attendees may begin to fill in.

One more thing…

Liz and I have decided to add one more component to this year’s event. We’d like to have 5 Ignite presentations. Liz and I will each take one, which means we are looking for three more volunteers. Ignite presenters will be using 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds for a total of just five minutes just as seen in these videos.

From the Ignite site: “Fast-paced, fun, thought-provoking, social, local, global—Ignite is all of these and more. It’s a high-energy evening of 5-minute talks by people who have an idea—and the guts to get onstage and share it…”

If you are interested in presenting your idea in this challenging format, please contact me (lisa dot thumann at gmail dot com) or Liz (Liz b davis at gmail dot com) to reserve your spot and find out when your slides are due!

I hope to see many of you there on the 25th.

The Purpose of Education

This post is my contribution to an ongoing project organized by purpos/ed, “a non-partisan, location-independent organization aiming to kickstart a debate around the question: What’s the purpose of education?“  It is an honor to have my post included among the other amazing bloggers that have also contributed their responses at http://purposed.org.uk/archives/.

The purpose of education is to help students develop a lifelong love of learning.

Don’t you remember what school was like at age 6 and 7? I do. I had teachers that liked to have us explore, play, laugh and smile. I wanted to go to school and I wanted to learn.

I see this in my second grader. There is no “boring”. There is no memorization of facts. She wants to research topics she interested in and report them to her classmates. She reads, write, draws, thinks and discusses.

What happened between 2nd and 3rd grade?

My 3rd grader's bookcase

An appreciation and love for learning at school is something that is absent from the life of my 3rd grader. At homework time, she says:

  • Mom, I can’t draw my comic figures for this report, I have to do it the right way.
  • Mom, I can’t ask my teacher that, she might get mad at me.
  • Mom, I can’t use the computer for my spelling lists, I have to do this worksheet.
  • Mom, I can’t read that book, I have to read this one.
  • Mom, I hate homework.
  • Mom, I don’t like school
  • Mom, school is boring.

It goes on everyday, seven days a week. (Yes, she has homework seven days a week.)

What should we do? Or, how can we help? (Or what should I do and how can I help?)

Do our pre-service and in-service teachers getting enough experience, training and time for:

  • Enthusiasm
  • Empathy
  • Respect
  • Self-confidence
  • Self-awareness
  • The ability to reflect

Because if we can encourage all of this in our teachers, there is a glimmer of hope that they will model them well for our children.

I admit I am critical of those that work with my two girls. Shouldn’t I be? But, I acknowledge that perhaps some are not prepared in the sense that their education and experiences didn’t give them the opportunities to develop enthusiasm, empathy, respect, self-confidence, self-awareness and the ability to reflect.

We need passionate teachers. We need to cultivate a love of learning in all our students. I believe that before test scores rise, more children graduate from high school, and more graduates go to college, we need to focus on the purpose of education – nurturing a love of learning.

Looking for Skype partners

The Supervisor of Technology from Montclair Public Schools contacted me earlier this week looking for ways to spark interest in collaborations with the students in Watchung Science and Technology Elementary School. The Principal of the schools, Peter Turnamian, had reached out to her regarding a project they were working on. (The school serves 460 students in grades K-5.  Their primary language is English.)

The question the students are looking to discuss via Skype is “How are we all connected?”  The primary objective for this project is to increase cultural awareness for students.

We know we have the following invaluable Skype resources:

But if you are interested in kick-starting this discussion, please fill out the following form so that someone from Watchung Science and Technology Elementary School can contact you directly.

Please click on the form to complete it.